Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Little Ditties Fill the Bag - Puns, Punctuation and Prose

Cindy Sproles

Editors are creatures of habit. They’re eyes are trained to notice the details most of us forget.  I’ve often wondered if their bedtime ritual includes memorizing one or two pages of the Chicago Style Manual before they tuck themselves in.

Still, it’s those little tiny things that drive them nuts and push your work off their desk into the trash.
Writing is subjective. And though there are rules for commas, semi colons and quotes, there’s always the one time exception. So here are a few rules of thumb…keeping in mind things change on a regular basis.

*Always check the guidelines. They are the necessary evil, but being in line with them will move you one layer up on the slush pile. Why are guidelines necessary? They’re there to help the house or magazine you’re writing to stay on course. With the internet quickly overtaking snail mail submissions writers must play by the rules. Use Times News Roman 12 pt font or Courier New 12 pt when submitting. These fonts are fairly basic to most computer programs and do not insert funky little signs in place of punctuation. Most every computer word processing program and decipher these fonts.

*Double space unless otherwise noted in the guidelines.(Notice I said, GUIDELINES) 

*Period.  Not, period.  Okay.  Okay, I’ll translate. At the end of a sentence with a period, place one space. This is not as big an issue for those under 30 trained in “keyboarding” as opposed to those over 50 trained on a TYPEWRITER. The rule is different these days. Two spaces throws off the formatting and adds additional space in digital publishing. So learn to put only one space after your sentence.

*The shift key.  It’s the same on a keyboard as it is on a typewriter. Use it to capitalize. Please capitalize proper names and the beginning of sentences. Writers are not texters.

*Learn how to use quotes.  “words,”   Not “words”,   (Use your editor’s eye to catch the difference.” Check the Chicago Style on this one when in doubt.

*Passive voice is a no-no. Stay in the active voice. (Of course there’s always the exception to the rule, but more times than not…active voice is the way to go.

*Cliché’s.  Unless you’re a true southerner, most editors prefer you avoid cliches’. Challenge yourself to rewrite a cliché in a new a different way. Use description over comparison. Love your words enough to write with flare over lazy. (This is very hard for me because, I AM SOUTHERN and I love a good cliché.) I’m not a lazy writer…I just love the creativity in clichés. They make me laugh.

*Use strong verbs. Avoid over use of “ing” and “ly” words. 

*Avoid the dangling participles. However, she was sure she needed out.  Most of the time you don’t need the word before the comma and your sentence becomes a stronger statement without it. She was sure she needed out. See – much tighter.

*Stop over thinking things. Just say what you mean.  This came to me in a devotion:
I overtly realized how seemly overdone she was. Excitedly I suddenly and quickly watched across the room hoping without a shadow of a doubt, she would be noticed and wholeheartedly punished.
I had to scratch my head on that one then I rewrote it:
She was overdone, almost sleazy. I watched across the room sure she would be noticed and punished.
Still not great…but certainly, without a doubt, innately, better. (grin)

*Show Don’t Tell. Show your reader the imaginary world around them through dialogue and action. Paint the scenes. Use the senses. Draw your reader in.

*GWS – Goes Without Saying – These are very simple examples of goes without saying… it’s obvious when you sit, you sit DOWN. When you stand, you stand UP. Tighten up your writing by allowing the reader to use their own thoughts of deduction. You don’t need to explain the obvious.

*RUE – Resist the Urge to Explain. Allow the reader to fill in some of the blanks. They’re pretty smart readers so you don’t need to explain every tiny detail UNLESS it moves your story ahead. Too much explaining gets old real fast. Your reader grows tired and lays down your work. Bummer. RUE.

*Cause and Effect – This is common but it drives an editor wacky. You can’t slam a door until it’s been opened. You can’t answer a phone until it rings. We easily drop details out of order of sequence in a scene so read your work. Make sure your cause happens before the effect or consequence.
*The common margin is 1” inch around and intend is .5.

*Avoid explanation points like the plague. To a writer an explanation point is emphasis. To the reader, you’re shouting. In a 70,000 word document editors allow you one explanation point. WHY? Because your sentences around the ! should be strong enough to inflect the emotion. Description, description, description.


These are just a few little things that jump off the page at editors. Oh, shucks, for the fun of it…let’s use a cliché. They jump out like a sore thumb. All writers trip over the mechanics from time to time. Learn to watch for the ditties, punctuations and prose that fills the “trash” bin of editors.

Monday, February 27, 2012

8 Ways to Beat Post-Conference Blues

Edie Melson

I've been attending large writing conferences for twelve years and they all have ONE thing in common—post conference blues. It’s only natural. A week-long conference is an exciting, grueling experience. Just physical exhaustion alone could get anyone down—add to that the mental and emotional effects and you have the perfect set-up for a huge let-down.

For those who aren’t expecting the post conference blues they can—worst case—derail your writing career for a year or more. At the least they can set even an experienced writer behind several work days.

The feelings can run the gamut of a vague sense of unease to out-right panic. I’ve found that once I’m at home all the nice things people have said about my writing morph into something ugly.
• They were just being polite—they didn't really like my writing.
• They don’t really want me to send in that proposal.
• They’ll never publish that (article, devotion, whatever) they told everyone to send something in.
All of these are lies. I've sat on the editor side of the desk and believe me when I say this. Less than 30% of the writers I request something from actually send something in. I’m convinced that a big reason is the post conference melt down.

Here are some tried and true ways I’ve found to minimize the effects.
• Give yourself permission to feel deflated when you get home.
• Arrange your schedule so you have a few days to recuperate.
• Pamper yourself. Sleep in, go out to eat, spend some much needed time
with family.
• Before you dive into conference generated work take time to evaluate what
• Make a list of things you want to accomplish over the next year, next
six months and next month.
• Develop a plan to stay in touch with new friends and contacts.
• Reach out to others who may be feeling the same way.
• Take your next steps in small increments.
All of these things can help you navigate the post conference blues. Now it’s your turn. Have you experienced the let-down? If so, what have you found to help you cope?

Edie Melson is an author and co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Power Behind the Task - Cindy Sproles

It's over. Boot camp is over. The soldiers are weary but they are prepared. They came with open hearts,  minds, and willingness to serve.

We have forewarned them the high will hit a low and the road will be difficult but they are prepared. Girded in the armor of God, bound with the love and support of their peers...these soldiers have learned "The task ahead of them is never as great as the Power behind them."

Onward Christian Soldiers. We look forward to seeing the fruit of your labor. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Write. Write by His command and trust He will use the seed.

A special thank you to our awesome staff. Yvonne Lehman, Ann Tatlock, Eddie Jones, Andrea Merrell, Terri Kelly, Scott McCausey, Chris Yavelow and Diana Flegal - for you have prepared the army of Gideon.

This euphoria of excitement will wain as time passes, but it's important you remember...remember how and what you felt when you were at Boot Camp. That can never be taken.

Tonight you rest. go into battle.

Soldiers! Dismiss.

Cindy Sproles
Company Commander.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Daddy's Got This - Janey Goude

I’ve struggled with what to do next. I think I’ve found my niche but wonder where in the world I will find clients. I consider how busy my life is right now (I homeschool four children, ranging from elementary to high school), and I’m not even sure I should be writing at all.

I’ve pondered this for quite some time, when Boot Camp appeared on my radar. I felt God’s nudge saying, “I’m going to use this to equip you for the next part of your journey.” So I stepped out in obedience, and all of the pieces snap neatly into place.

Take a deep, cleansing breath and relax, I thought. The assignments began to come and I was excited. Writing is energizing. Without warning, the doubts begin to settle in again, more intense, disturbing. My husband pursues a job that takes him away from home 26 weeks a year.  

Dear God, I can barely do this with him here. How will I ever find time to write being a single parent half the year? Is Boot Camp a waste of time? Is my husband’s job opportunity confirmation that I’m supposed to quit writing for this season?

I seemed to toss on waves of uncertainty. Unsettled in my every thought. Instead of turning to the One who has the answers, I found myself entertaining fear and doubt. Then, out of the blue, I remembered a pastor friend’s response to me during a time of need: “Don’t worry. Daddy’s got this.”

His use of the word “Daddy” caught me off guard. He didn’t say, “Your Daddy” or “Our Daddy”. No, he was referring to God simply as “Daddy”. He spoke of God as though “Daddy” was His name. Intellectually, I knew this was the level of intimacy our Creator desired, but it had never penetrated my heart before that exchange.

During the course of our day, I'll tell my children, “Daddy called,” or “Daddy will be home around 5,” or “Daddy will take care of that when he gets home.” “Daddy” is his name. No one else calls my husband “Daddy,” except me and our four children.

When I received those words of encouragement from my pastor-friend, I felt God in a more intimate way. I felt like a little girl sitting in her father’s lap, safe and secure in knowing he would take care of the situation.

Last week, rocked by a tsunami of doubt, I once again felt the reassurance of Daddy’s big, strong arms holding me. How silly of me to worry. God  delivered every client to my door, so to speak. Each project had its own God story. The most remarkable is He gave me a detailed playbook for contacting the authors: a couple who had already published multiple books and with a successful international ministry. They received my correspondence as an answer to prayer because God orchestrated every detail. A humbling, awe-inspiring reminder it isn’t about me at all. My writing is about His plan, His purpose, His Kingdom.

Why do I doubt when I have seen His hand over and over again in provision. Somehow I lose sight of Him, and I start looking at me. I’m sure I’ll do it again. But for now, I know Daddy’s got this. He is able to bring clients my way: the right ones at the right time. I just have to keep listening for His voice. Right now, it’s saying, “Get to Boot Camp. Get equipped so you are ready for My next assignment.”

Janey Goude and her husband of twenty years homeschool their four children, ranging from elementary school to high school. She enjoys exploring God’s open doors in writing, editing, and collaboration. You can read her blog at

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Welcome to Writers ADVANCE! Boot Camp

A special thank you to Cecil Murphey and his foundation for writers in providing four scholarships to Writers ADVANCE! Boot Camp 2012.  Listen to Cec as he welcomes you to Boot Camp.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Orange Wax Anointing - Mary Jane Downs

Hark! Was this a sign before Boot Camp? As I was talking on the phone with one of my writer buddies, I was also busy cleaning off my desk. You know the multitasking thing. Well, when I moved the lighted ‘Christ candle’ I keep on my desk, the candle fell over and orange wax went all over my hands, my computer, my tablet of writing ideas and of course the desk itself. The wax was hot, sticky, but all I could think about was cleaning up another mess. Then, The Holy Spirit began to illuminate the situation and I saw another reason for the mess. Was the wax pouring out the Lord’s way of anointing and sealing me before the Boot Camp experience next week? It WAS the Christ candle. The wax mostly fell on my hands, my writing ideas and my laptop.

Boot Camp for me is like a coming out of the shadows by searching to learn more about how to write better so I can use my hands to war through the pieces I will write on the computer. I have struggled for along time to see myself as a writer and that God had truly chosen me to be His “scribble.” (Typos are funny and sometimes revealing as well.) But as the days draw close, excitement is mounting and I am courageously stepping out to say, “Yes Sir, send me.”

The candle wax was orange. Oh how fitting. Orange is the color associated with passion and fire. Passion and fire are what I am asking the Lord for as I go into this weekend of learning. Do I feel a little overwhelmed at the task ahead? Yes. However, God’s passion inside of me will catapult me towards my goal of writing for Him alone. The fire is what He may need to put under me at times when I get to comfortable with where I am at in the moment.

So Lord…Thanks you for your anointing power on all of us. Without Your guidance, our words would be to no avail. Teach us how to war with our hands so that we can touch the lives you intend for us to touch. And Lord…Give us the courage and strength to see the task through. AMEN

 Mary Jane Downs is an inspirational writer of poems, stories, devotionals and children’s stories. She has been published in Awe Magazine,, and judged the weekly writer’s contests for Mary Jane graduated from LaGrange College, LaGrange, GA with a degree in Elementary Education. She is currently the assistant director for The Gathering-A Meeting Place for Creatives in Christ Conference. Contact Mary Jane at

More - Paul Newton

 Occasionally, we as writers need to slow down, sit down and shut down, long enough for us to see the joys God has given. We're often overcome with deadlines, worrying about the write, right, wright...words. Paul brings us back to the reality of Christ and our need to abide in Him. In Him, our gifts are made more. In Him, we are more. - Cindy Sproles

"I need more. I need more depth. I need more one on one." These words stayed with me as I left the hospital room. What can we say to a mind clouded by pain - to a focus that is blinded by tribulation, known and unknowable. Surely this is a place I have been before. The details were different but the need was the same. I need more!!

The blessing of trials and afflictions are, even now, awaiting me. Those blessings from the past comfort me. Thirty years ago, I was crying out to God for the same thing. At that time, I might have called it peace, health or a clear mind. My goal was to meet the needs of my world and hold on to my idols. My idols were "good" idols. All I wanted was to meet the needs of my family, the demands of my job and to save my marriage. One night, I was overcome by frustration and anger realizing that I had no clue to the puzzle of my life. I was also inebriated. Obviously, this was a perfect setting for a quiet time with God.  I picked up my Bible and selected my text by "the let it fall open method." God, who is the I AM, WAS in that moment - and ever shall be.

The complexity and the mystery of God revealed His mastery of the most minute detail. I was given the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 that night. I couldn't miss it because it was underlined. It was my Bible but I had no memory of that verse. When I read it, my body shook and every hair I had stood up. It seemed as if an electric current had just run through me. GOD HAD SPOKEN TO ME!! John Newton has said, "God works powerfully but for the most part gently and gradually." That moment was powerful. The next thirty years has seen God work gradually but also relentlessly. The gently has been hit or miss. I'm sure that if I listened better He would have treated me more gently.

Today my walk with God is still seeking the "..more .. depth .. one on one" of my hospital visits mentioned earlier. Today, I more completely trust God in and for all things. Today, I seek His will because I know my will is usually bad for me. In the future, I pray to seek His will because my desire is more of Him, more depth in Him and more one on one time in His presence. Today, I confidently say that my every need, my every question, my every hope and my every prayer has the same answer; "I AM!" "In Him (I) we live and move and have our being." Acts 17:28 "Jesus!" is the prayer that I breath many times in my day. "Father!" is the prayer He speaks for me every time. "I AM!" is the answer always. Thank you father for your faithfulness.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fiction, Non-Fiction or Simply to Write - Cindy Sproles

I field writing questions on a daily basis. Ask me about a devotion and I can bolt upright from a dead sleep and recite the Hook, Book, Look and Took method of writing, why you should use it and how it impacts the reader. Then there are moments I have to resort to writing books or other authors who have a greater grasp of knowledge than myself. I'm not always the expert but I am always learning.

When conference time comes and folks line up for their 15 minute appointments there is one thing I continually hear: "I don't write fiction." or "I don't write non-fiction." I understand the love of a specific genre. Some of us are strong in the fictional process where others' voice weighs heavy in non-fictional stories and articles. Hearing those words, "I don't write..." sends chills through me when the art of writing is still writing.

Grant you, learning your target type of writing is vital but should you close your mind to the other side of the spectrum? If you're a fiction writer should you not learn the tools for writing non-fiction or vice versa?

Writing is a craft and like any craft the methods can intertwine. For example, I have a friend who is an excellent knitter. I'm learning to crochet. Both crafts are somewhat interchangeable. They both require needles, yarn, instructions and a specific way to hold the yarn. Both require me to count stitches, single out rows and attach more stitches. Both demand I follow a pattern to start my first row, make the design and finish the project.

The same is true with writing. Fiction and non-fiction are intertwined to a point. Non-fiction projects require me to follow a storyline pathway just as fiction dictates I build and follow a plot. I have to get from point A to point B in a way that holds the reader's attention and makes them want to read more. Be it fiction or non-fiction my work needs to follow a path from beginning to end to keep my reader on track.

Fiction characters demand personality and attributes, even flaws to pour to the surface. The reader can fall into stride along side the character and walk the path with them if they understand why and how a character acts the way they do. The same character traits are needed in non-fictional characters. Even though those characters already have a personality built, it's up to you to flesh out the attributes of those characters so a reader will connect. You see....intertwined.

Painting a scene colors the fiction world. It shows the reader the surroundings and the situation where your characters live. Within non-fiction, a reader needs to see the scenes of the story you tell. They need to see inner dialogue and conversation so they are drawn into a deeper connection with the characters of the story.

My point is simple. Learn writing as a whole. Of course focus on your strength as a fiction or non-fiction writer but learn the skills of both. A writer who does this rounds out their work. They weave a story that uniquely ties the little details into life-changing moments. Their work goes from good to memorable and we want our stories to be memorable.

My mother and cousin are avid readers. I qualify that by saying they average reading two or three novels a week. Two weeks after they've read six to nine novels, they can recall the book title and maybe the name of the author. The books they've read are good reads but they are not memorable. Slip in Max Lucado, Francine Rivers or Frank Peretti and they can recall the book chapter by chapter. Why? Because the story was memorable. The writers incorporated tiny pieces of writing fiction and non-fiction into their work and wow! What a mark it makes.

When you see a workshops on writing, soak them in. Learn the craft of writing because writing is still writing. Will you need every little thing you learn? Probably not but will you be able to incorporate tidbits and make your work better.

Finally, don't lock yourself into a box. If you write fiction as your primary, venture out and learn to write articles, how-to's and memoirs. If you're a non-fiction writer, venture into the world of fiction and learn the skill. The only result you will have is a better piece of writing. When you write for God, you never know what road He'll send you down. Love the craft. Learn it. Then write it.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Professor Plagiarism - Dawn Gonzalez

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Being plagiarized is a writer's nightmare. The day it happened to me, my husband boarded a plane for a funeral in Miami. He was flying above the earth and all its cares, so in a time of cell phones, instant messages, and my crisis, he was unavailable.

This fledgling writer had to deal with it alone. I approached this problem like any other — by writing. First it was a nasty email that I never sent. Then I made an online request for advice from other writer friends. My writing frenzy finally softened into prayer - the words I should have started with.

When I finally stopped talking (through writing) and listened and found there was much to learn from plagiarism.

1.  I am a writer.
Plagiarism said so, even if I wasn't quite ready to. Someone else deemed my words worth copying. I was the late-comer to this realization. The words still feel odd in my mouth, but I keep saying them in hopes that they become more familiar and comfortable. Although I've never been paid for a single written word (yet), I. Am. a Writer.

2. Blogged words are valuable.
Although they are free for the writing and the reading, blogged words have worth. There are so many options these days: traditional publication, self-publication, e-book writing. Blogging is no less an option for writers. Even agents, publishers and editors agree. They all advise writers seeking publication to blog. That button you click to send your words into cyber-space is called "Publish" for a reason. Blogging, just like all other writing platforms, has value.

3. My writing is worth protecting and defending.
Plagiarism threw down the proverbial gauntlet, and I had to decide whether or not I would defend my art and creativity. I much preferred crawling back into bed that morning, but I would have turned my back to more than the plagiarism-challenge before me. I would have been denying my lifelong love of writing, boxes of filled journals, two years of blogging, and all my future writing hopes and dreams. I reluctantly accepted the challenge. The burden was instantly lighter, and I was yet to pick up the gauntlet and take on the challenge.

4. Learning is the first step towards teaching.
I wrote a much nicer letter to my offender defining plagiarism and sent it privately. I assumed she meant no harm since she linked to my original work. I took the opportunity to share my knowledge with a less experienced writer, encouraging her to be creative and let God use her individually. Then she could be proud of and zealous for her own work, instead of comparing herself to others and wishing she had written what they wrote. It ended well. The opportunity to share my knowledge with a less experienced writer showed me I am growing and maturing as a writer and a teacher.

5. Lessons learned have a ripple effect.
My teenage son didn't understand why I was so upset. He saw it as a compliment that someone would take my words and portray them as their own. My daughters also got involved in our discussion, and they all learned about intellectual property, copyright infringement, and how to highlight with integrity and respect someone else's original work. As a student, a web-surfer, and a songwriter, my son will take care to cite works properly in academic papers and be wary of pirating the original work of others online and as a musician.

This may have been my first challenge in the writing life, but I'm sure it won't be my last. What challenges have you faced as a writer and what lessons did you learn from them?

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Dawn is a pastor's wife, mother, and writer. She blogs at

Friday, February 17, 2012

As a Writer I am Like an Artist that Doodles - Mary Edwards

Skip skip skip. I danced around the kitchen. Couldn't get into doing anything, much less writing. The phone rang. I think my heart may have skipped a thousand beats. Grinning from ear to ear I ran to answer the call I had been anxiously waiting.
“Hello?” “Hello Mary, This is Cindy.” I sounded a bit giddy as I replied “I am so excited Cindy.” Her reply made me sit quickly in the dining room chair.


Uh oh. Here it comes. I was not as prepared as I thought I would be for what came next. Corrective criticism isn't always an uplifting. After sitting for what seemed like an eternity, listening to all the mechanical mistakes my short story had, I had deafened my ear to anything positive my critiquing instructor said. She did say. “This is a good story.” Those words were faint in my memory. I struggled to stay positive… a lump in the back of throat, convincing both her and myself I was fine with all she was teaching me. UGH.

Two days passed with Satan playing his games in my head. Words like inadequate, not good enough, give it up, all attacked my insecure mind. I shared these feelings with my fellow writing friends. They encouraged me and reminded me this was instruction to learn by. I knew all that. I wasn't feeling that way.

Cindy also said, “You have the coloring book outline. Now color the pictures.”

Yes, that was it. I only had the outline. I have outlines of everything everywhere…notebooks of all kinds. Composition, spiral, three ring binders. Even scratch pads have a bits written in a jig-saw of pieces. Although I felt my story was complete, it was far from it. I only had to see it with an experienced artist’s eye.

I have a clearer vision of who I am as a writer and who I will become. I am as a writer like an artist who doodles. It does not mean I am not a writer. It makes me one - one with good ideas who must learn to color in the lines. I am looking forward to Writers Advance! Boot Camp and more classes to come. I am eager to learn, to grow and to paint His words into a masterpiece for the Lord. Doodling words may be done with my pen. My prayer is He colors His will through my hands.

For I am a writer for Him.

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me'. Erma Bombeck

Mary Edwards is a children and young adult book writer and photographer. As publicist chairperson for the Gathering, A Meeting Place for Creatives in Christ Conference, she has written advertisements and promotional articles for newspaper, radio station, and magazine submission. She has been published in Mature Living magazine, The Tryon Daily Bulletin and several church bulletins. Mary also writes children church curriculum and planning for various children ministries. She is self-employed at Photos by M.E. where she combines both her writing and photography. Contact Mary at .

Stress and Writing - Karen Jones

I have noticed when I am stressed, worried or over committed writing becomes laborious. Words and ideas will not come. It is like looking into a black hole expecting something to appear on the horizon.
When I am at peace in my world and with my God I hear the Lord's promptings as if The God of my creation, Elohim, is pouring forth ideas like the oil running down Aaron's beard. The ideas come so rapidly I can't wait to write them down. Scriptures come with deeper understandings, children's books or ideas gush in my soul.
When I read the scripture "Be still and know that I Am God" (Psalm 46:10) I understand that being still is not just being quiet, reading the scriptures, or praying. It is being at peace in my soul.

The Other Side of the Table - Andrea Merrell

The first time I volunteered to read at my local writers group, I prayed for courage and kept reminding myself to breathe as I awaited my turn. When it came, it was either dive in or pack up pad and pen . . . and hightail it out of there.

When I finished reading, the silence was deafening. After waiting for what seemed like hours, the leader began her critique, followed by several comments from other group members. The rest of the meeting was a blur. I couldn’t wait to see what these strangers had written on my papers.

My husband asked how it went. My reply: “I feel like I just got chewed up and spit out by a group of very nice people.” During the critique, all I heard (or thought I heard) were negative, critical comments. Now, as I pulled my papers out of the folder, there were little smiley faces and positive, encouraging comments from everyone. From that moment, I learned the power and importance of a good critique.

A few months later I attended my first writers conference. Sitting across the table from various agents and editors seemed like a job interview and I felt unprepared, underdressed, and under-qualified. The feedback was both positive and negative—some kind and some not so kind. If I had focused on the negative, I would have left the conference, shut down my computer, and looked for another pastime. Fortunately, the positive outweighed the negative and caused me to go home and make my writing better by applying what I learned.

A couple of years later I found myself on the other side of the table at the same writers conference, this time representing Christian Devotions Ministries as their Associate Editor.

What a difference . . . sitting on the opposite side, knowing I had the “power” to say yes or no—to encourage dreams or be a dream-smasher. As I looked into the hopeful eyes of those presenting their stories and devotions for my approval/critique, I thought back to how I felt sitting in their chair and knew I had to make my words kind, constructive, and encouraging. My job was to speak life into their hearts and their words.

If you’re a newbie, work hard at learning the basics and honing your craft. Keep a humble attitude, always be teachable, and develop that proverbial “rhino skin.”

If you’re an established writer, editor, agent, or publisher, treat people with the respect and consideration you want extended to you. Sow generously into the lives of people and help them achieve their dreams.

And . . . always remember what it felt like on the other side of the table.

Andrea Merrell is the Associate Editor for Christian Devotions, writer  and a free-lance editor living in Travelers Rest, SC

Thursday, February 16, 2012

WRITING OPPORTUNITY - Write Integrity Press

Call for Submissions: Three Anthologies

We are currently seeking submissions for the following:

Life Lessons from MOMS
To be released May 2012

Life Lessons from DADS
To be released June 2012

Life Lessons from TEACHERS
To be released August 2012

We learn about life from many different sources, and WIP wants to honor and recognize folks who've taught us through the years. The Life Lessons series continues with three more books this year, and we'd love to read your stories.

Submit your 1000-word or less story by e-mail - attached to the e-mail as a Word document - by March 30th, 2012. You may include one photo per entry that may or may not be used as a black & white image within the book. Please attach photo as a jpeg image.

Please put Life Lessons, along with the specific book you're submitting to (Moms, Dads, or Teachers), in the subject line of the e-mail. 

You may submit one story per book. 

Contributors will receive a $25 payment for their story, a complimentary copy of the book, a byline, and bio included at the back of the book.

Go to Call for Submissions and Submissions for more information and guidelines.

Who Me? Called? - Amy Fish

"Remember, you are each coming because you heard the whisper of God and answered. This is YOUR call. You've enlisted and now you are part of Gideon's army of 300. I hope you come with an open mind, open heart so that your EYES will be opened while you are with us." - Cindy Sproles

These words from Cindy had me doing a double take this morning. As I read and re-read, my heart rejoiced. Dare I believe that this be true? With confidence, I now can say, "YES!" It was about a month ago that my dear friend approached me and asked if I wanted to attend the conference. Hesitantly, I told him I did. To my surprise, he told me my way would be covered. I was shocked. Speechless actually. NOTHING was standing in the way for the Lord to further equip me to write.

Days passed, and I began to question if traveling to The Cove was the right thing to do. Once I realized my way was paid, I quickly drafted my husband to be my companion. Both of us had been writing bits and pieces of lessons learned in our journey with the Lord for years now. We had never been published, but the love to express our heart through the written word was a connecting bond. However, as time drew closer excuses began to pile up.

What about our children and dogs? We'd be missing our daughter's basketball tournament and our new puppy was only three months old. Was it right to leave them? Yes, my way was covered, but paying for my husband seemed far too extravagant for us to cover with finances so tight. How could we possibly afford this right now?

Then the family concerns turned to feelings of inadequacy. Who am I, Lord? Why would anybody want to read what I've written? Aren't there tons of other people out there who can write better than me. Amidst all the thoughts and excuses, a gentle nudge within my heart kept encouraging me to simply pay the deposit. So with a bit of fear and trepidation, I did.

Reading Cindy's reminder that I have been called puts a smile on my face. Robert Benson, author of In Constant Prayer, writes, "To be a writer is to bear witness to what you've seen and heard." I'll never forget the first time I read those words for in that moment I could hear the Lord saying to me as He did to the disciples, "You shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). We have all been called to bear witness. Now is the time to sharpen the ax.

With great joy, I look forward to meeting my fellow soldiers and getting the equipping I need to be His witness.

To God be the glory.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Writing Coffee - Mary Downs

Occasionally, we need to be encouraged to move forward with our writing in spite of our personal fears and challenges. I went through one of those difficult times recently. I desperately needed a tangible sign from God. Would you inspire my writing in the days ahead, I asked. “I’m stepping out in faith to write for the public.”

Our writers group was given the prompt “To Go” by one of the members, due the next week. I had not been able to come up with any ideas. My mind was blank and the challenge was due the next evening. I was nothing short of frustrated.

Sometimes I think writer’s block permanently sits on my shoulder just to poke at me regularly. Finally, I sat down to relax, calm my negative thinking and pray for inspiration. With my laptop in hand, I wrote the title at the top of the page and waited. Before long I had a burst of energy and a dab of anger. This poem emerged.


I’m going to be a writer
Whether you like it or not.
Place the words in motion
In the order of my thoughts.
God will guide the process
As I search to find His will
He knows the lives He wants to touch
With the strokes of my holy quill.

There…I had gotten an idea written down.

Only something God could orchestrate the following events. As I centered the poem on the page a shape appeared. Can you see the shape the poem makes?

I’m going to be a writer
Whether you like it or not.
Place the words in motion
In the order of my thoughts.
God will guide the process
As I search to find His will
He knows the lives He wants to touch
With the strokes of my holy quill.

If you look closely and imagine a curvy handle on one side, it becomes a perfect teacup and saucer. I was shocked and joyous when I saw the image materialize. It dawned on me the lady who gave the prompt collects teacups and saucers. God answered my prayer and helped me gain confidence again. The poem has become a lasting testimony to revisit when doubt and fear invades my mind about the writing He has called me to do.

“Fill my cup, Lord, I lift it up, Lord
Come and quench this thirsting in my soul
Bread from Heaven, feed me 'til I want no more
Fill my cup,
fill it up and make me whole.”

Mary Jane Downs is an inspirational writer of poems, stories, devotionals and children’s stories. She has been published in Awe Magazine,, and judged the weekly writer’s contests for Mary Jane graduated from LaGrange College, LaGrange, GA with a degree in Elementary Education. She is currently the assistant director for The Gathering-A Meeting Place for Creatives in Christ Conference. Contact Mary Jane at

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Assignment 5 - Show Me - Don't Tell Me

By Cindy Sproles
Who knows how many writers hail from The Show Me state but if there aren’t tons then the concept of Show…Don’t Tell, must have originated in Missouri.
Show vs Tell is a common writer’s blunder. We bury ourselves in our work-in-progress making strong points and telling the reader every little move, that we often fail to see our reader backed into a corner wondering what hit them.
The concept to show the reader what is going on around them in the story can be tricky but once you figure it out, you’ll hardly ever slip up again. What is Show vs Tell?
It’s easier to SHOW (get the pun?) you what it means than to TELL:
Joan was seventeen. She loved Bruce but her parents wouldn’t allow her to see him. One day she marched into the living room, pointed her finger in her father’s face and told him he was wrong to judge Bruce. She told her father Bruce held down a good job at the paper mill. He worked hard to earn a good income and it didn’t matter if he was three years older than her. She loved him and she was going to marry Bruce, regardless of her parents disapproval. She would graduate Olsen High in two weeks and she’d meet Bruce at County Court House down town. They would be married, like it or not.
This is a paragraph of strictly telling. The writer gives the reader a blow-by-blow picture of Joan and her intentions to marry Bruce. (Are you yawning yet?) I thought so…Now let’s flip this paragraph around and SHOW instead of tell.
“I’m seventeen, Daddy. I love Bruce.” Joan brushed her bangs away from her face. Her father dropped his newspaper across his lap. His face grew red.
“So you say,” he said. A puff of smoke twirled from his lips and the smell of tobacco permeated the room. Joan fanned the stench.
“Bruce might be three years older than me but he’s responsible. He’s worked at the paper mill for the last year. They pay him good.”
“You’re too young and that boy is not the same kind of people we are.”
“What people?” Joan stomped across the room. A calendar from the local ESSO Station hung over the fireplace, its edges curled from the heat of the fire. Joan yanked the calendar from the wall and slapped in into her father’s lap.
“In two weeks I graduate Olsen High. Like it or not, I’m meeting Bruce at the County Court House and we’re going to get married.”
 When you write a story and show the reader the action, they fall into the story. It’s as though a bubble forms around them and they’re standing in the corner of the living room watching the story unfold. They smell the scent of Joan’s father’s cigar and they feel the tension between the two. The reader instinctively looks around the imaginary room and sees the fireplace. They catch a glimpse of the curled edges of the calendar and they get the anger that erupts. The reader is now part of the story…living the action, listening to the argument and almost wanting to interject their two-cents worth into the conversation.
Telling gives the reader a blow-by-blow narration of the events that are happening. It even implies to the reader how they should feel rather than letting them experience their own emotion. The reader detaches and their interest wanes. Within minutes your reader will lay the story down and claim they got nothing from it.
Involve your reader. Prick the senses. Show them the scene. Allow them to live in the imaginary bubble that makes a well-written story come to life. Fill your sentences with rich description, strong dialogue and well-structured emotion.
How do you recognize when you are TELLING? Step back. Read your story paragraph by paragraph. If it reads like a grocery list then you need to rework. Choose strong verbs and good action tags that pull the reader into the story. Let them experience the uncomfortable feeling of being in the middle of an argument between this teen and her father.
 It’s that easy.
 Here you’ll find a few simple exercises that will help you learn to show over tell.I learned these years ago through a critique group and they've stayed with me since.
1)      As a writer you understand what emotion is. Below you will find phrases that tell. Focus on how our character looks. Observe Joan's eyes, her mouth, her facial expression, then in one sentence show her emotion. Describe it.
(Telling) Joan was mad.
Now show Joan mad:_________________________________________________________

(Telling) Joan was happy.
Show Joan happy: _____________________________________________________

(Telling) Joan was embarrassed.
Show Joan embarrassed:_________________________________________________
2)   Now…what would Joan say if she were mad? Write a line of dialogue that expresses  
Joans anger: ______________________________________________________________________

3)      Strong verbs will help you SHOW rather than tell. Think of Joan’s frustration and write
three verbs that show her anger: ______________   __________________   ____________________

4) The traits of a character will also help you SHOW the reader things about your character.
    (Telling) – Bruce was responsible.
    List several character traits that can SHOW how Bruce is responsible
**Hint: hard-working, honest, helpful.  Now you try:
____________________   _________________________   ________________________

5) Let’s put it all together. Below are 7 sentences that tell. Your job is to rewrite them into a paragraph that shows:
     1)  Jean has $10
     2) She wanted a dress at Macy’s that cost $25.
     3) She tried on the dress.
     4) Jean wondered if she’d ever earn the additional $15.
     5) She wanted to buy the dress on credit.
     6) The clerk said the dress was on sale for $7.
     7) Jean was thrilled she got the dress on sale.
 By the time you finish these simple exercises you’ll have a better grasp of SHOW vs TELL. Take your work-in-progress. Read it paragraph by paragraph. Do you show or tell? Now let your imagination go and rewrite.